Magazine article Marketing

Setting Their Sites on the Public: Company Museums, like the New Cadbury World, Can Become Major Tourist Attractions

Magazine article Marketing

Setting Their Sites on the Public: Company Museums, like the New Cadbury World, Can Become Major Tourist Attractions

Article excerpt

SETTING THEIR SITES ON THE PUBLIC The number of factory visits by the public fell during the 80s. Not through lack of demand--more to do with recent scares of food tampering and the possibility of thefts. So it's ironic that the company which this year produced Cadbury World -- the alternative tourist attraction -- next year will actually allow visitors back near the shop floor.

It reveals just how well Cadbury has picked up on what the public wants. By the beginning of this month, some 140,000 people had passed through the doors of what is billed as the "chocolate experience". Not bad, when the company admits that it was expecting 150,000 by the end of the year.

Cadbury provides a mixture of displays and taste experiences for the chocolate lover, including a restaurant, cafe and gift shop. Visitors can view the history of chocolate, from the time of the Mayans, when chocolate was the food of the gods, to its transformation as the food of kings. When it reached Europe, it was adopted by the "common man", and in Birmingham its manufacture was taken up by the Quaker family Cadbury.

"It shows the manufacturing processes and the separate factories for men and women. Then visitors are taken on a tasting where they see the chocolate being made," says Steve Simons, creative director at specialist consultancy Event, who designed the concept.

This is one of those interesting examples where public relations merges into the broader concept of corporate communications. According to Cadbury World sales and marketing manager, James Allen, the aim is clear. "It is there to reinforce the corporate brand in an exclusive fashion by operating a quality tourist attraction," he says.

If brands are being put on the balance sheet, then it will make sense also to include a capital asset which reinforces the brand image. "We expect it to offer value for money in comparison with other tourist attractions," says Allen.

It was a brave step for Cadbury, a company which, unlike the big brewers, has no leisure interests, but it does have certain drawbacks. "One of the most difficult challenges is not creating an awareness of Cadbury World, but rather to define what it is," says Allen.

"We are almost a one-off--we call ourselves a 'chocolate experience' because there is no other word."

Since leisure is one of the key growth areas of the 90s, Cadbury's example could well be copied elsewhere. But since its inception coincides with a tightening of the corporate purse strings, it is likely that only the biggest brands will take the risk. Some corporate museums are already feeling the pinch, particularly those which do not charge an entrance fee.

British Telecom's Technology Showcase for instance, near London's Blackfriars Bridge, was due for a new display in May. A six-week refurbishment was cancelled, however, with no new date set.

It is just one of the dangers that companies face if they open themselves up to public scrutiny. …

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